First activity of West Nile virus confirmed in Michigan's Saginaw County

Health officials in the state of Michigan recently confirmed the first activity of the West Nile virus in a mosquito pool in Saginaw County, leading authorities to urge residents to take precautions against bites and infection.

Last year, the virus was responsible for 34 West Nile cases and two deaths in Michigan. Nationwide, the virus caused 2,469 cases and 119 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The West Nile virus causes a number of neurological conditions, including meningitis and encephalitis. Symptoms include severe headache, muscle weakness, high fever and confusion.

Officials warned that adults age 50 and older have the highest risk of infection, along with individuals who work in outdoor professions.

"The mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus may breed near people's homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds, and unused pools," Erik Foster, a medical entomologist at the Michigan Department of Community Health, said. "As summer temperatures rise, the mosquitoes and the virus develop more quickly, so it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites."

A mosquito pool collected by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission recently tested positive for the virus at Michigan State University. Mosquito control authorities said the number of mosquitoes that transmit the virus is on the rise in the state.

Citizens can avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellent products containing EPA-approved active ingredients. Residents are also encouraged to drain any standing water and ensure screens and doors are in good condition.